International Connections

Jenna Johnson

Major: Elementary Education

Year: Senior
Hometown, State: Latimer, Iowa

Type of experience: Student Teaching
Experience: International Student Teaching
Experience website:
Destination: New Zealand

Overall experience..
I had the opportunity to teach in the Year 3 and 4 classroom at The Terrace School in Alexandra. Alexandra is in the Central Otago Region in the South Island of New Zealand. During this experience, I was a generalist teacher; I also taught physical education, music, and the preforming arts. I learned New Zealand’s curriculum, which is much different than the Common Core, as well as the school’s goals for their students. I was able to travel around the South Island on weekends and during the school break to see the beautiful landscapes New Zealand has to offer.

I learned...
I originally heard about the opportunity to internationally student teach through professors in the education preparation program. I then went to the International Student Teaching open house to learn more about the different placements.

An impact to my life...
Through this experience I gained a new perspective of how people live and what school looks like. As a future educator, I thought it was beneficial for me to see a completely different school system. I realized that my idea of “school” and how it should be run was very constricted. I was able to expand my idea of school through learning an entirely new curriculum and seeing the different areas of emphasis. Overall, I became more aware of my own culture and more accepting of others.

My most valuable learning experience...
The most valuable learning experience I encountered happened in the classroom. I thought I knew what differentiated learning was and felt that I could implement it successfully in my own future classroom. Then I saw differentiation in the New Zealand classrooms and realized how much I could improve. It was important for me to realize that I will be continuing to learn new instructional and classroom management strategies, and that I can always improve my teaching. One of the main focuses in the New Zealand curriculum is to create lifelong learners, so I need to continue learning as a teacher.

I will never forget...
I feel very fortunate for getting the opportunity to go to New Zealand. It is such a beautiful country with many different landscapes and scenery. I loved all the hikes I was able to go on, but my most memorable experiences was when I went hiking on the Hooker Valley Trail at Mount Cook. This hike was suppose to be easy and only take a little over three hours, but when I got to the trail, there was three inches of snow on the ground. This made the hike much more difficult but the views were amazing.

A surprising discovery...
I was surprised by the culture shock I experienced in New Zealand. I think of New Zealand being similar to the Unites States’ culture, so the amount of differences surprised me. I am going to keep the cultural shock I went through in mind when I get a student in my classroom from another country or even another state. I need to remember that the cultural norms at the school are likely different and this student may be confused on what is expected from them. I need to be accommodating for these students in my future classroom and make sure they feel accepted.

Advice for others...
My advice would be to embrace being out of your comfort zone and be open to try new things. Being in a different country and culture can be intimidating, but take advantage of as many new experiences as you can.

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